Text of a sermon preached at St John’s Anglican Church, Fremantle 7 July 2019. Audio here.
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
“Blessed are the eyes that see, what you see”
Now, just to be clear, the Gospel here is also talking about our eyes, what we see.
Because, the Gospel today not only recounts the sending forth of disciples and the proclamation of the Kingdom, but it also invites – in fact, it demands – us to participate in this proclamation. It draws us deep into the story itself, making us part of the Gospel, part of the Good News.
It is interesting to note where today’s reading sits as part of the modern structure of Luke. At the start of the previous chapter, Jesus commissions the twelve disciples in a similar way to the commissioning of the 70 in today’s reading.
There is clearly an expansion here. And Jesus, of course, knows what he is doing because the 70 are to proclaim the Kingdom “to every town and place” where he intended to go. And we know where Christ, upon his return will be found – in every town and every place. This theme of expansion reaches a peak at the start of the following chapter, where we hear the words,
“Father, hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come.”
A form of the prayer that is the paramount act of worship and hopeful anticipation of the Kingdom. From the 12, to the 70, to a prayer for the Kingdom prayed across the world and in every language.
The most striking and magnificent aspect of this glorious expansion is often missed. It is there right in front of us towards the end of the reading today.
“Then turning to the disciples, Jesus said to them privately, ‘Blessed are the eyes that see what you see!”
Jesus said to them privately – and yet we hear it, we see it in the Gospel. And so, we are drawn into the private and intimate conversation and communion between Jesus and his disciples. If we attend to the Gospel at this point, it casts its divine power over us and positions us as Christ’s disciples. And so, it is we who must continue the expansion of the work of proclaiming the Kingdom.
Now the 70 were directed to leave home with very little, to cure the sick and proclaim the Kingdom, which the Gospel implicitly suggests they did successfully – with the odd bit of unasked for demon subduing along the way. This may seem a bit of an ask for us modern disciples, but the key to their success – and our success – is obedience. The demons did not submit to the disciples, but to the name of Jesus. In modern parlance, the 70 left their egos at home.
Obedience to God. Moving away from our ego. The easiest thing – because we know what we should do – and the hardest thing, because we are forever doing the exact opposite. On our own, our human nature fails.
Perhaps this is why the 70 went in pairs. As Jews they would have been familiar with the tradition that when two or three study the Torah the Shekinah, the presence of God would settle upon them. Travelling in twos, supporting each other in the name of Christ, the presence of God would settle upon their mission and bless their endeavours. And so, it can for us, as walk through our mission – the presence of God is always ready to settle upon us as we practice.
Unlike, the 12, the names of the 70 are not recorded in the Gospels, in the earthly narrative of history, yet they are “written in heaven”. So too with our names – few of us will go down in history, but through our love and action, our names, our essential personhood may be engraved upon the walls of heaven.
Our shared anonymity with the 70 also points to the blessings with them. The 70 were blessed to see the Messiah in flesh and blood, the Son of God walking among them revealing the Father to whom he chose.
We do not have Christ physically with us now, yet we have the exact same blessings. We still see that which prophets and kings longed to see, but did not see. We still hear what they did not hear.
Every week we see the Gospel of our Lord, the Word of God, come down from the high altar, symbolizing the heavenly places. The Word of God comes among us. As the Book processes down, our attention is caught, we turn and our eyes follow the Gospel. And we hear the Good News proclaimed from among us.
Blessed are our eyes, blessed are our ears.
In a moment we will accept the invitation, given freely to all, to commune with God. We will see our priest offer us Christ’s body and blood. We will hear our priest name us as disciples. We will walk towards the heavenly places and as One Body partake in a foretaste of the heavenly banquet.
Blessed are our eyes, blessed are our ears.
These blessings come completely from our free acceptance of our commission to proclaim the Kingdom. It can be that simple, as our Old Testament reading shows us, centuries before the commissioning of the 70. Naaman could not accept the healing, the blessing of God, offered to him, because it was so simple. But all he had to do was obey the prophet of God.
Our free acceptance of mission may be as simple as Naaman’s healing, may be as simple as the 70 stepping forth into the world. Having each of us become part of the Gospel, part of the plan of Jesus, we walk where he intends to walk one day; each of our footsteps will be retraced by Christ. We are forerunners for Christ’s return.
And His kingdom is brought closer as we walk those few steps to talk with a homeless person, sharing our common humanity. It is brought closer by those steps we will make in a few moments when we share God’s great peace with whoever is close to us in church, not simply our spouses, families or friends.
The kingdom is brought closer by those steps we make to walk to our neighbour’s door to hold them in their grief. It is brought closer by stepping into a politician’s office to seek justice, and in those steps where we walk in protest and solidarity with others. It will be brought closer by those steps we make as a parish, placing the welcome sign out the front, running fairs and fundraisers, blessing the grounds of a new Christian school for Fremantle.
As disciples progressing the mission of the 70, we take heart that though sent out as lambs into the midst of wolves, all of the 70 returned in joy – in modern parlance, the world did not get the better of them. And will not get the better of us. And the whether they were welcomed or not, the presence of the 70 proclaimed the Kingdom to whoever they visited. Our simple actions of love as disciples of Christ, whether rejected or not, whether recognised or not, proclaim the Kingdom. All we have to do is walk.
In the Name of Christ.